Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Always Be Nice

Always be nice; a lesson I learned very early, along with most other women my age, and the one which has been most problematic for me, I think. Even in writing this blog, I have been very careful about the topics I post, so as not to give offense to whomever. I don't like conflict and avoid confrontation when at all possible. I really thought it was mostly just me, but I'm realizing that it is how most all women are socialized.

Kate Harding's recently column at Salon addresses part of this issue/problem in reference to the recent shooting at a Philadelphia gym:

Because we're taught to be polite, submissive, and generous even when men are making us uncomfortable, we automatically reach for the "nice guy, but..." out. Then the guys convince themselves that "nice" is a dirty word, and charlatans like Steele profit from telling men who hate, fear and objectify women, who feel entitled to women's bodies and enraged when they're denied access, that they just need to stop being so gosh darned nice to women. And then one of them snaps and starts killing women he describes as not even looking human to him, and we're all like, "Huh, didn't see that coming. "

Harding also references a June blog entry by Harriet Jacobs about "how women's socialization leads to the very behavior we're blamed for if we have the poor judgment to let ourselves be raped", which I recently ran across and forwarded to all my young women relatives.

I've sometimes cringed at my daughter's more in-your-face attitude and style, thinking she should try harder to be "nice". I'm glad she didn't take that lesson to heart as much as I did from my mother. The old adage is that nice guys finish last, but the greater truth is that too-nice girls never even make it to the track.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I love coffee.

Well, actually, I love coffee once I have added enough sugar and cream (real cream, NOT non-dairy cream substitute) to turn the nasty, bitter, black liquid into something that actually tastes as good as it smells.

I did not drink coffee until I reached my mid-thirties, when a good friend lured me to Starbucks and bought me a White Chocolate Mocha latte' (cappuccino? I still don't know which is which...) and I discovered that you can make almost anything palatable if you add enough cream and sugar to it. After spending more money than I ever should have at the local Starbucks shop, I broke down and bought a small coffee pot that made just enough coffee to fill the insulated travel mug that came with it.

That was sufficient for a number of months, but, we all know how addictions progress. The same friend who took me to Starbucks (Thanks, Joy!) later gave me a French press that made very nice, smooth coffee in larger quantities than my little travel mug set-up. After that came the 4-cup coffee pot, which is really misnamed because it only filled my coffee mug twice. Four cups, indeed. Then came the 8-cup coffee pot, you know, in case I had friends over who wanted coffee. When Mother moved in with me, I started making a 6-cup pot of coffee every morning, but sometimes when I went back for seconds, I would find the pot empty. This meant I had to start preparing an 8-cup pot of coffee every morning, just in case we both needed extra on any given day.

Now, over ten years after that first Starbucks experience, I have graduated to the 12-cup monster shown above. (I got it free from Gevalia by signing up for their coffee subscription service, after I forgot to turn the coffee pot off one day, and Steve found it 15 hours later, when he smelled something roasting at the other end of the house.) The spiffy new black-and-stainless pot has a clock/timer that allows me to set it to come on at a certain time, but more importantly, allows the coffee pot to turn itself off after two hours. Now I don't have to worry about burning the house down with Mother in it.

Mother is drinking less coffee these days, so I'm back to brewing six cups every morning, an amount she and I split approximately 70/30. She has her coffee with a little cream in a regular coffee cup. I have my coffee with a lot of sugar and cream in a large mug (my favorite shown above - thank you, Sweetheart!). Sometimes in the afternoon, I will finish off the morning's pot by making a nice, creamy iced coffee to drink on the way to work, as long as I don't intend on trying to sleep before 2 a.m.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Mother recently started going to Adult Daycare at the Tarpon Springs campus of the Neighborly Care Network.

I was worried that she would be insulted by the very large "Adult Day Care" sign in the front of the building, but I just don't think she makes any kind of connection with it being like day care for children. Even though I don't believe she would be able to live alone again, she is still capable of staying at home by herself during the day, so her attendance is more like an enrichment program for her.

The program is 6.5 hours per day, Monday through Friday, but Mother just attends on Wednesdays. I drive her there to arrive around 10 a.m., and the van brings her home around 3:30 or 4:00, depending on which van trip she is on that afternoon. The van could pick her up in the morning, too, but we would have to have her ready by 8:00 a.m., and she doesn't really want to be gone from the house that long. When we first moved here and looked into this program, she was very reluctant to go, much as she was with the Take Five Club in Kerrville. After I started working closer to full-time hours, I think she was getting more bored and lonely, and so was more open to the idea. Plus, I insisted. The day before her first day there, she told me that since it looked like it was going to rain the next day, she...and I interrupted her to finish the sentence that she would be going anyway, because in Tampa, it could very well rain every day from June through November. I think she stuck her tongue out at me.

Her first Wednesday afternoon, one of the activities was playing Bingo, and she won a teddy bear. She set it on the couch, and when Steve got home, she very proudly showed him her Bingo prize. He asked her what she had named it, and she said she hadn't, but later told us that she had decided to name it Honey Bear.

The following week, she came home with a pastel-colored Beanie Baby rooster. You can see him in the photo above, leaning against the table lamp. His name is Cock-A-DOODLE-Do (emphasis on the "DOODLE" - go ahead - say it out loud). The third week - no Bingo, so no Bingo prize. But the fourth week - another teddy bear! This one is Sugar Bear, and s/he sits with Honey on the end of the couch Mother sits/lies on to watch TV during the day. Add in the two teddy bears that my niece has sent with floral arrangements for Mom's birthday and Mother's Day, and we now have a total of five stuffed friends hanging out in the living room, helping Mom watch Bret Maverick and Roy Rogers outsmart the bad guys on a daily basis.

The Grumpy Grammarian: Who vs. That

I am continually astounded to hear evening newscasters use these terms incorrectly, and I cringe each and every time it happens. These terms are also unfortunately misused in newspapers and magazines, as well, bringing my flow of reading to a screeching halt with the wrongness of it.


Use "who" when referring to a person: Mary is the girl who is dating Jim.

Use "that" when referring to anything that is not a person - a dog, a chair, etc.: Can you help me find the ball that rolled under the house?

Thank you, and please pass this on.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mother's (and my) Progress

There have been many positive changes in Mother's quality of life issues - which have also been quality of life issues for me! I am mostly past the point of being embarrassed when having to address hygiene issues. I've made suggestions, gradual changes, and sometimes outright bullied her into taking these steps.

I didn't realize until just before our move here that she was NEVER brushing her teeth. She had gum surgery several years ago, and was always very conscientious about brushing and flossing, even taking a toothbrush and floss to work with her and using them after her lunch in the company break room. But her increasing dementia, and perhaps depression after my sister passed away, had given way to no attempts at regular hygiene at all. I finally told her that she HAD to brush her teeth at least once per day and (taking a page from the "dealing with small children" notebook re: offering options) asked her if she would prefer to brush her teeth in the morning or in the evening. She chose just before bed, and now she faithfully brushes her teeth every night, promptly at 9:30 p.m.

After her initial appointment with her new primary care physician, we were referred for an Activities of Daily Living (ADL) assessment, and ended up having several weeks of physical therapy, and a health tech aiding with showering. Mother's poor balance and increasing weakness were, for the most part, due to her amazing levels of inactivity. She was not moving around much, she was not getting any exercise; she just sat (or lay down) and watched TV all day. After a few weeks of 3x per week PT with increasing levels of exercise, and my gentle observation that if she became incapacitated, I would not be able to care for her, she has been walking around more and is generally in better shape. She did not continue the exercise regimen the PT set up for her, but neither did she return to her previous level of inactivity. As she is VERY interested in what the mailman brings us, I told her that I won't get the mail, so that she will at least make the walk to the street and back every day. I still can't get her to walk around the grocery store with me, though. She walks from the car to a bench at the front of the store, and waits there until I'm done, then walks with me back to the car.

She now sees a podiatrist every other month for footcare that she is no longer able to do for herself. She has new, comfy shoes purchased from SAS shoe outlet. We almost had a fight in the shoe store, as she was appalled at the cost ($80) and said she wasn't going to pay that for a pair of shoes. I told her they were good quality, leather shoes, and she WAS going to replace the old, wornout, ill-fitting shoes she had. I also told her that if she didn't buy them at this store, we would just have to go to another store - and another and another - until she found some new shoes that suited her. At that point, she must have realized that I was dead serious, and decided that buying what she thought were expensive shoes would be much easier in the long run. She is now quite pleased with them.

A health tech comes to the house on a weekly basis and assists with shower and shampoo. After the initial PT sessions, which included shower help, Mother realized that showering wasn't all that scary (the master bath has a large walk-in shower). But she was still resistant, and oh-my-goodness, I was quite reluctant, to me giving my mother a shower, and so it just wasn't happening as often as it needed to. I finally told her that I was arranging for weekly bathing visits by a nursing service, and it was going to cost $28 per visit, and as it was a health issue, it was no longer negotiable.

We have also moved through a series of steps to her wearing Depends (or actually, the Publix brand equivalent). I was worried that she would take offense at the suggestion, but her reaction was totally positive. She just seems to consider them to be a handy, helpful item. Thank goodness!!

For those of you who realize the import, I am also very happy to report that the Big White Purse is GONE! I had tried several times over the past two years to get her to go through it and replace it with another of her bags, but she was always extremely resistant. I guess we finally reached some tipping point of me really insisting and her getting tired of arguing. We cleaned out gasoline receipts that were over 10 years old, got rid of notes and phone numbers that she had no idea whom they were for, and got everything switched over to a nice beige purse (see photo above). And as with the shoes, after the painful act of change, she is now quite pleased with her new bag.

In addition to all these life improvements over the past nine months, Mother has recently started spending one day per week at a local senior program. But that will get a blog post all its own.

My New Job

After eight months of intermittent (and mostly un-) employment, I snagged a mostly full-time job with health, dental, vision and retirement benefits. The company has stores nationwide, the atmosphere is fun, and my boss and coworkers are genuinely nice people. And yet I am still finding it difficult to come right out and tell people that I am now employed - at a bowling alley.

Every time I think the words "bowling alley", I see the scene in the Dudley Moore film, Arthur, where the butler tells Liza Minelli's character, his voice totally deadpan, "We usually have to go to a bowling alley to meet a woman of your caliber".

It is very nice, however, to have a regular paycheck, and health insurance has been an almost forgotten dream these past few years. The only thing I don't like about it is my schedule, which shifts back and forth from afternoons to late nights (sometimes at late as 3 a.m.), plus I am generally working all weekend most weekends, including every Saturday evening. Another positive, though - lots of fodder for future blog posts.